Fisher Investments plans second building on Camas campus

CEO says it will accommodate 700 workers

By Tyler Graf and Cami Joner

Published:

 
photoKen Fisher

Update

■ Previously: Fisher Investments opened its first building in 2011 on its 200-acre campus at 5525 N.W. Fisher Creek Drive. It added a one-story operations building in 2012.

■ What’s new: Company founder Ken Fisher said Monday he intends to break ground on second five-story office building in July.

■ What’s next: General contractor Howard S. Wright will construct the office building, expected to open in 12 to 14 months.

Ken Fisher said Monday he plans to break ground in July on a second office building, which will be able to accommodate some 700 workers on its five floors, at his Fisher Investments' campus in Camas.

In an exclusive interview with The Columbian, the 62-year-old Forbes columnist and billionaire Fisher still wouldn't say whether adding a new building — an identical twin to the company's first office building — signals his intention to relocate the company's headquarters from California's Silicon Valley. Still, a doubling of the company's office space in Camas means that Fisher Investments will have more employees in Washington than in California when the building opens roughly 12 to 14 months from now.

Currently, about 445 of the company's employees report to the Camas campus, and 600 are based in California, Fisher said.

"We're moving people here and we're hiring people, and we're still hiring in California, too," Fisher said. The company also has smaller offices around the world.

Fisher Investments manages $49 billion in assets from many sources, including private client accounts for high-net-worth individuals, as well as public pension plans for several states and major cities. It also manages financial plans for companies such as Boeing and Volvo.

The company's local presence has grown steadily since 2007. That's when Fisher, the company's founder and CEO, opened a temporary office in Vancouver with 50 employees while complaining loudly over what he calls an anti-business climate in California. He thinks he'll need more space about the time this latest building is completed.

"We don't know with any certainty where markets are going to be five years from now," Fisher said. "We have guesses about things. We do a lot of guessing."

Camas leaders, informed by The Columbian of Fisher's plans, were thrilled with the news they'd long anticipated.

Mayor Scott Higgins said he hadn't heard of any firm plans for the investment giant prior to Fisher's Monday announcement to The Columbian. But he characterized the revelation of more jobs moving to Camas as "really good news."

"We want to get as many of those jobs as possible," Higgins said. "These are family-wage jobs. They've had a positive impact on the community."

The company has steadily hired workers for its existing Camas office building, which Fisher says has room for about 150 more workers. The new building will allow the company to both continue hiring new workers and transferring employees from California to Camas. Fisher said the $17 million he'll spend on the new building will bring his total campus investment to about $47 million.

In addition to the first office tower, which opened in 2011, the 200-acre campus also includes a one-story building for its processing and printing operations on its northeast corner. It includes exterior loading docks and space for printing equipment used to produce Fisher Investment's marketing brochures and letters.

In recent months, the city has begun laying the foundation for a new road near the company's growing campus.

In March, the city broke ground on a half-mile expansion of Northwest 38th Avenue, near the Fisher campus, in a bid to spur future development. The city expects the $4.8 million road project to wrap construction in October.

Higgins said an expansion of Fisher's campus was a major motivator for moving ahead on the project, but it wasn't the only one. And although he declined to speculate on the possibility of Fisher one day moving the headquarters to Camas, he said the company hasn't been shy about saying that doing business in California is difficult.

Fisher Investments has called Woodside, Calif., its home since 1973, although most of the company's California-based workers report to its main operation center in San Mateo, Calif., near Woodside.

Fisher has long listed affordable housing, proximity to Portland International Airport and Clark County schools as the key attractions that drew him to the area.

Fisher Investments employees earn, on average, between $75,000 and $200,000 a year and, despite the impact from Washington's sales tax, Fisher expects that employees who move here will save by not having to pay California's state income tax.

Fisher and his wife, Sherri, have houses both in California and in Camas, but for tax purposes the couple remain residents of California, Fisher said.

As for the tax advantages of having his company's headquarters in the Golden State or the Evergreen State, Fisher said California's corporate tax has about the same effect on Fisher Investments' bottom line as Washington's business and occupation tax, Fisher said.

"To a rounding error, it's not very different," he said.

Cami Joner: 360-735-4532 cami.joner@columbian.com.